Bonn (Germany) Open Day #UNBonn20

UN team with the Mayor of Bonn Ashok-Alexander Sridharan, at Villa Hammerschmidt
UN team with the Mayor of Bonn Ashok-Alexander Sridharan, at Villa Hammerschmidt

10,000 visitors visited Villa Hammerschmidt and the former Federal Chancellery to celebrate the 20-year Anniversary of the United Nations (UN) in Bonn on Sunday, 26 June 2016.

The day was officially inaugurated by officials including Mayor of Bonn, Ashok-Alexander Sridharan, Dieter Kalthoff, Director of Security for the Presidential Office, Richard Dictus, UN Volunteers Executive Coordinator, and Peter Failer, head of International Development Policy for the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The day even featured music from the band “The UNbearables” made up of UN employees.

Visitors learned more about the millions of voices on MY World through an impressive Humans of MY World photo exhibit. The United Nations showcased the new UN Bonn website, the #SDGs, and allowed many families to experience global issues firsthand through immersive #virtualreality #UNVR.

View event photo gallery

Humans of MY World exhibit
Humans of MY World exhibit
Visitors experience virtual reality films
Visitors experience virtual reality films
Villa Hammerschmidt
Villa Hammerschmidt


10.000 Besucher besuchten die Villa Hammerschmidt, Bonner Amtssitz des Bundespräsidenten, und das einstige Bundeskanzleramt anlässlich des Jubiläums “20 Jahre deutsche UNO-Stadt Bonn” am Sonntag, 26. Juni 2016.

Die Veranstaltung wurde offiziell eröffnet von Bonns Oberbürgermeister Ashok Sridharan, Dieter Kalthoff, Referatsleiter im Bundespräsidialamt, Richard Dictus, Exekutivkoordinator des Freiwilligenprogramms der Vereinten Nationen, sowie Dr. Peter Failer, Abteilungsleiter Internationale Entwicklungspolitik im Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ).

Sogar Musik von der Band „The UNbearables“, die sich aus Mitarbeitern der Vereinten Nationen zusammensetzt, gab es am Tag der offenen Tür.

Durch eine eindrucksvolle Humans of MY World Fotoausstellung erfuhren die Besucher mehr über die eine Millionen Stimmen der MY World Umfrage. Die Vereinten Nationen in Bonn präsentierten ihre neue Website (, die globalen Ziele für nachhaltige Entwicklung #SDGs und Besucher erhielten die Möglichkeit globale Fragestellungen durch ein immersives virtuelles Realitätserlebnis hautnah zu erfahren #UNVR.

This summer, visit Refugees: a new exhibition in the UN Visitors Lobby

Refugees Exhibition, UN Visitors Lobby (c) ARG Media

This upcoming September 2016, the UN General Assembly will address large movements of refugees and migrants at a High-level Summit in New York that will precede the annual General Assembly Debate. In the lead up to this, the UN Sustainable Development Goals Action Campaign will be partnering with the UN Department of Public Information and UNHCR on an exhibition to draw attention to the plight of refugees, showcasing the individual stories and faces of those who are in in need of immediate help and desperate for the international community to reach and implement comprehensive and sustainable solutions. Through artistic installations that include infographics, photography, video, virtual reality, and a Portal, the exhibition will feature the personal stories of refugees as well as UNHCR’s latest facts and figures about the crisis. The exhibition will be open to the public in the UN Visitors Lobby from 20 June until mid-September.

As part of the exhibition, the UN SDG Action Campaign will bring you two immersive experiences, United Nations Virtual Reality + Portals, that allow visitors to feel first-hand what it means to be a refugee in the Zaatari Camp in Jordan. The Zaatari Camp is home to roughly 80,000 Syrians fleeing violence and war. Children make up half the camp’s population.

Opening of a new UN Portal to connect to the Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan
Participants experiencing Clouds Over Sidra at the Refugees exhibition (c) UN Photo/Loey Felipe


Clouds Over Sidra is an award winning United Nations Virtual Reality film, which enables you to see Zaatari through the eyes of a young Syrian Refugee girl living in the camp. Individuals and groups may also schedule an appointment to visit the UN Portal that will and allow them to engage in dialogue and programmed events with Zaatari


Dialogue with young boys living in Zaatari Camp, inside the Portal

The combined experience enables people to access locations and situations they would otherwise never experience, providing context for some of the most complex issues. Interactive experiences such as these also help build understanding of how successful implementation of the Goals can improve the life of a single person, and hopefully inspires action in helping to improve their lives, however small. Ultimately, the aim is to transform understanding of critical global issues that must be addressed in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals into a medium that is instantly empathetic and universally relatable.

Opening of a new UN Portal to connect to the Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan
Richard Amdur, speech writer for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, tells of his experience after he talked with a young Syrian refugee at the Zaatari camp via the UN Portal  (c) UN Photo/Loey Felipe

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Action Campaign is a special initiative of the UN Secretary-General that seeks to create an enabling environment for SDG Implementation by building new multi-stakeholder partnerships and empowering people with the knowledge and tools to become actively involved in supporting their governments with the implementation of the SDGs. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are the world’s plan and guiding principle towards a more sustainable and equitable planet. These are a universal set of goals, interconnected and focused on leaving no one behind. While these are long-term goals, they are also highly relevant during pressing moments of crisis as well.

United Nations Virtual Reality (UNVR), coordinated by the UN SDG Action Campaign, uses high tech headsets to immerse viewers in some of the most complex global challenges. Building upon its mandate to amplify the voices of those who are often unheard, particularly the world’s most vulnerable, the project seeks to show the human story behind development challenges, allowing people with the power to make a difference have a deeper understanding of their world, and hopefully to act to make a difference. See more: #UNVR @sdgaction

Portals is part of a global network of interconnected shipping containers with immersive audio and video technology that allow visitors to converse face-to-face with people across the world. Together they form a global community where people can engage one another across myriad forms of distance. The Portal is made possible by a partnership between the UN SDG Action Campaign; Shared_Studios, a multidisciplinary arts, design, and technology collective focused on carving wormholes in the world through the use of new technologies and partnerships; Bridges of Understanding Foundation, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, nonpolitical organization established in 2007 that enhances positive relations between the United States and Arab World through one-to-one connections between thought leaders and the creation of original youth focused programs; and UNICEF Jordan. See more: #UNPortal #ZaatariPortal @sharedstudios

(c) ARG Media

World Humanitarian Summit

Virtual reality hub at the World Humanitarian Summit
Virtual reality hub at the World Humanitarian Summit

The UN SDG Action Campaign participated in the World Humanitarian Summit on 22-24 of May in Istanbul, co-hosting the Virtual Reality hub, along with Samsung Mobile Turkey, RYOT Films, UN Women, OCHA and the WHS Secretariat.

Assistant Secretary-General & Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator United Nations OCHA Kyung-wha Kang watched My Mother's Wing
Assistant Secretary-General & Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator United Nations OCHA Kyung-wha Kang watched My Mother’s Wing

The World Humanitarian Summit – the first summit of its kind held by the United Nations – brought together participants from the global community which included hundreds of delegates and leaders of Governments, crisis-affected communities, private sector leaders, multilateral organizations, international and national NGOs, youth representatives, civil society, diaspora, civil-military, and academic leaders.

The UN is producing films using Virtual Reality (VR) technology, and through this new and powerful approach, they are changing the way how organizations raise awareness and funds. These films highlight some of the most pressing global challenges that the humanity faces, including the Syrian refugee crisis and climate change issues.

At the Summit’s Virtual Reality hub, visitors were able to watch 9 immersive films produced by the United Nations and RYOT films, using Samsung Gear VR and Galaxy smartphones, which were provided by Samsung Electronics. Continue reading “World Humanitarian Summit”

A People-powered Agenda

Article from Disrupt & Innovate Blog:

Written by Mitchell Toomey, Director, UN SDG Action CampaignCjXS4S-VAAACMFn

In September of last year the world witnessed an historic moment – leaders from every member state of the United Nations unanimously ratified a bold and comprehensive 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This agreement emerged not only from the negotiating chambers at the UN but also from a radical and far reaching global conversation that eventually included more than ten million people and thousands of civil society organisations (CSOs), largely through the MY World 2015 survey. The mix of new and old techniques opened the negotiation process to a vivid display of the variety of experiences, knowledge and organisational forms which populate the civic space and left member states buoyed by the energy and enthusiasm of people worldwide, ultimately resulting in a far reaching, complex and ambitious agenda for action.

Thus, the new Goals carry in their DNA openness and inclusiveness, and it is this same spirit that will be required in order for member states to achieve them. The shared vision of the SDGs will be tested as governments lead the process for their implementation: It is critical that space is created for a broad range of actors beyond those traditionally involved in development-related decision processes, if the scale and ambition of the agenda – to leave no one behind – is to be realised. Through the MY World survey initiative for example we saw a massive engagement from young people worldwide (over 70% of survey respondents were under 30 years of age) we must continue to harness this energy to not just debate what the agenda should be but to drive the agenda forward, foster innovation and mobilise new actors.

Each country will need to take its own bold steps, in keeping with their national priorities, to own and achieve the Goals. The United Nations stands ready to accompany and support this process. We are convinced that the outcome of the inclusive international negotiations leading up to the 2030 Agenda can serve as a blueprint for participatory implementation as well. In this regard, some countries where civic participation has been limited or constrained will encounter roadblocks to inclusive implementation of the Agenda, while those with vibrant and well-resourced CSOs will have a distinct advantage in a process that will, by design, require activation of all parts of society.can only succeed together

The SDGs were designed to be interdependent. While dedicated efforts will be required to achieve each goal and target, comprehensive success will only come when these interdependencies are met with an equality collaborative approach to implementation.  Using the Goals as a unifying framework, segments of society that may not have a history of collaboration have a new chance to find ways of working together. The Goals create a narrative as vast and rich as the societies in which we live.  The lessons we have learned from the innovative and open drafting process for the Goals should give us all confidence that inclusive processes, coupled with advances in communications and data analysis technology breakthroughs, can help us overcome traditional bottlenecks and conflicts that have hampered development progress in the past.

CSOs have a right to be proud of their role in drafting the Goals.  Even an open invitation to participate can only be properly leveraged if there are concerted and organised efforts to do so and the largest engagement still comes from sensitised communities – participation does not happen automatically. The Goals will serve as a continuing challenge as each country sets about working towards them. For our part we are building out the next chapter of the MY World project to foster ongoing engagement from people and civil society in tracking progress, domesticating the agenda and building accountability networks, inspired by the story of the Goals’ origin which serves as a living reminder and testament to the power of true open participation.

German Government & UNDP sign statement to establish UN SDG Action Campaign Center in Bonn

(Photo: SDGs Action Campaign/Bonn)

This morning, on Tuesday 24 of May 2016, State Secretary Friedrich Kitschelt and the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations Development Programme Assistant Administrator and Director for Policy and Programme Support, Magdy Martínez-Solimán signed a Statement of Intent to undertake global activities and open a Global SDG Action Campaign Center in Bonn, supported by the German Government.

The settlement of UN SDG Action Campaign stands for another milestone in the relevance of Bonn being at the same time a UN city and becoming furthermore a global hub of sustainability. The Campaign’s activity corresponds with Bonn’s slogan of ‘Shaping a Sustainable Future’ since 18 UN-organizations employing 1.000 staff members are within short reach. The Federal German Government strongly supports these efforts as we see the added value of a strong partner” – State Secretary Kitschelt.

Mr. Magdy Martínez-Solimán; Assistant SG and Director of the BPPS UNDP & Mr. Mitchell Toomey; Director UN SDG Action Campaign

The Center will be a strategic hub for the UN SDG Action Campaign to deliver on its mandate to inspire people’s action on the Sustainable Development Goals, connect and amplify stakeholder efforts, including those of the UN system and Member States, open up measures of accountability, aggregate citizen-generated data, showcase impact, share best practices, and incubate and test out innovative efforts around SDG implementation.

The success story of the long-standing partnership between the Campaign and UN Volunteers (UNV) programme will serve as a strong foundation for the new Campaign Center, which is intended to make a mark at the local level also; supporting the efforts of the UN family in Bonn (UN Bonn) and the Municipality of Bonn, among other key local actors.

The signature of this Statement of Intent and the establishment of the Global Campaign Center sends a strong signal about Germany’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals. The Center will be central to the UN’s strategy of providing cutting-edge advocacy support, big data expertise and analytics to Member States and partners across the globe, 24/7 from Bonn. UNDP is proud to be the principal UN entity backing the Campaign.” – Mr. Martínez-Solimán.


IMG-20160524-WA0095The Global Campaign Center of the UN SDG Action Campaign will be located in Haus Carstanjen, which was the first site of UN Bonn and housed the signature of the historic Marshall Plan. This will ensure the synergetic efforts and joint work of the UN SDG Action Campaign with the recently inaugurated Knowledge Center for Sustainable Development of the UN System Staff College.

In addition to the Global Campaign Center, the UN SDG Action Campaign will maintain a distributed operational base, including presence in New York to facilitate the link with the UN Secretary General’s Executive Office and the UN Development Group management process, as well as the presence for New York-based events and conferences.


ParisAgreement: SDG Action Campaign @ Digital Media Zone – UNHQ

IMG_5998Two major events recently occurred at the United Nations Headquarters: the High Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the High-Level Signing Ceremony for the Paris Agreement.

From Tuesday 19th to Friday 22nd of April, the UN SDG Action Campaign interviewed guests about their priorities and perceived challenges in the SDGs in the Digital Media Zone (DMZ). We shared our work on MY World 2030, The World We Want and Virtual Reality and conducted interviews and social media moments. The DMZ is a designated space hosted in parallel to High Level Meetings at the United Nations, such as the Signing Ceremony for Paris Agreement, which designates a “live social media newsroom” where journalists, bloggers, celebrities and media influencers can join the conversation, generate discussion and engage the global online audience.

During these few days, the UN SDG Action Campaign emphasized the importance of empowering and inspiring people across the world to take action in supporting their governments with the implementation of the SDGs. The Campaign invited delegates to be some of the first participants to vote in MY World 2030.

The UN SDG Action Campaign also showed the power of new technologies and storytelling in bringing the experience of vulnerable communities to decision makers and global society. Clouds Over Sidra and Waves of Grace are two films in the United Nations Virtual Reality Series which help create deeper empathy and understanding. Although these have been screened at the UN many times, there are always new people who have yet to have the experience.

  • The VR experience was just unbelievable. This is truly incredible
  • It was very touching. I almost cry looking at the images. To see into the eyes of someone living in a refugee camp is really touchy and give you an other sense of what is happening there”.


High Level Thematic Debate on SDG Implementation

As part of the UN PGA High Level Thematic Debate on the SDG’s the UN SDG Action Campaign, in partnership with the European Commission and World’s Best News,  organized a very successful event “Communicating the SDGs- For Everyone, A Communications Policy Room” on 21 April 2016. 

This policy room discussion brought together communication experts, global leaders in politics, business, and civil society, to emphasize the need for increased and better communication and partnerships, and to share best practices.

Panelist of the event included:  H.E. the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Mogens Lykketoft; European Commissioner Mr. Neven Mimica; Under-Secretary-General Ms. Cristina Gallach; Director of the SDG Action Campaign Mr. Mitch Toomey, and representatives from the World’s Best News, European Commission.;

This event also discussed how to communicate the Sustainable Development Goals to everybody, led by Chief Creative Officer, Mr. Jakob Trollbäck, TROLLBÄCK+COMPANY, helped to identify new and innovative ideas to make everyone aware of the goals and their content, through a  discussion led by Mr. Mitchell Toomey, Director, UN SDG Action Campaign and Ms. Majken Gilmartin, CEO, Eir Soccer. The event also looked at some of the best practices such as the European Year for Development 2015 and World’s Best News and how a unique effort changed the perspective of Europeans with presentations by Ms. Stina Soewarta, Head of Unit – Communication and Transparency, European Commission’s Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development and Mr. Thomas Ravn-Pedersen, Head of Secretariat and Editor-in-Chief, World’s Best News.

Finally participants discussed how international organisations, governments, CSOs and the private sector can best meet the challenge of “Action at All Levels” when it comes to communication.  The discussion was led by Mr. Rotimi Olawale, Co-founder Youth Hub Africa (Nigeria) and Chairman of African Youth Panel and representatives from the private sector

With closing remarks from H.E. European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Mr. Neven Mimica and Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Ms. Cristina Gallach, participants left with a series of practical ideas and new input for communicating the Sustainable Development Goals.

SDG Action Campaign at Columbia University School of Social Work: Linking Academia and the Most Marginalized for the SDGs

Written by Di Cao

Academia and the most marginalized groups are two crucial stakeholders for implementing the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But how can the two be connected and collaborate on achieving the SDGs? On March 28th, during the Annual Community Day of Columbia University School of Social Work (CUSSW), the UN SDG Action Campaign came to Morningside Heights and found the answer by meeting with great minds from the social work profession, who are dedicated to reducing poverty and changing lives.

Alice Chen from the Campaign carried out in-depth discussions with faculty members of CUSSW on how to bring SDGs to the most marginalized groups. Professors shared their groundbreaking intervention research on poverty, health, refugee, immigrants, and many other topics that are directly linked to the SDGs. Alice introduced our innovative works on using big data and new technology to include people’s voices in the SDGs implementation, which excited our audiences.

“The work of SDG action campaign brings awareness of SDGs and build empathy through new technology…this is the new approach to development.”

– Natasha Dachos, Director of the Office of Professional Excellence, CUSSW

“I expect that the MY World data and Virtual Reality films become the most exciting experience of my International Social Development class.”

-Mashkhura Akilova, Professor of CUSSW



The CUSSW Community Day is an annual event organized by a coalition of student caucuses at the school. This year over 50 workshops on cultural topics were held for students, faculty, staff and community members to explore cultural diversity and cultural competence. The UN SDG Action Campaign brought our VR films “Clouds over Sidra” and “Waves of Grace” to the audience in the cultural showcase session. Participants were transported to the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan or the streets of Liberia by way of VR goggles. Many students experienced this new technology for the very first time and they were profoundly moved by both the story and the way the story is told. Gulnara Zhakupova, a second year Master student of CUSSW, said  that “Clouds over Sidra” prepared her better for her future works with the refugee population.


“(The VR) hit me hard emotionally, but I was also focusing on what we can do over here and how we can help this (refugee) crisis.”

– Candice, First year Master student of CUSSW


SDG Action Campaign @ CSW60: Empowering Women and Men in Gender Equality Through Innovative Technologies


Before the opening of the 60th CSW, for the first time UN Women, World YWCA and UN Inter‐Agency Network on Youth have organized the CSW Youth Forum on 11-12 March 2016, which was held in New York, and gathered over 300 young participants.


After an engaging opening performance by Tennille Amor and her song “I am a Girl… Woman of the World…”, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has opened this first CSW Youth Forum declaring “This is a defining moment when women and youth make an alliance… with the potential to change the world”.


The UN SDG Action Campaign has participated on the panel by introducing the SDGs to the youth participants at the Forum. A special interest has been highlighted on introducing youth viewpoints through the World We Want 2030 Platform, and more specifically with the e-consultation on SDG 5: Gender Equality. This was a great opportunity for the Policy Strategy Group, youth-leg organizations, and individuals who may not be able to attend the CSW Youth Forum to make sure their opinions and voices on gender equality are taken into consideration. We have shared a compilation of results from this online consultation linked with Gender Equality issues. For example, to the question “What does Gender Equality mean to you?”, a lot of responses focused on inclusion and empowerment of all genders, effective laws and legislation, and that “Gender equality is integral for sustainable development”.


During the 60th session of the CSW, the UN SDG Action Campaign has also hosted an interactive side-event, on 15 March at the Museum of Tolerance, focusing on how innovative technology tools are being used to promote gender equality and to build empathy. The SDG Action Campaign has invited three dynamic women entrepreneurs: Tiffany Pham, Founder & CEO of Mogul, Gesche Haas, Founder of Dreamers//Doers, and Kristin Gutekunst, Project Manager at the SDG Action Campaign. As women entrepreneurs, they explained how they leverage technology to bringCSW5 employment opportunities, education and networking platforms to women. These women are in the field, taking action right now. Their stories further emphasize the need to break silos in development, as all the SDGs are interlinked and can only be realized together.

Finally, the side-event has given the audience the opportunity to “meet” dynamic women through the Campaign’s virtual reality series: “Clouds Over Sidra” and “Waves of Grace”.

African Parliamentary Conference on the SDGs

The UN SDG Action Campaign in partnership with the National Assembly of Nigeria and the African Network of Parliamentarians on the SDGs organised the first ever African Parliamentary Conference on  the SDGs on 9-11 March, 2016. The conference has as its theme – Parliaments, the SDGs and the Socio-Economic Transformation of Africa. The conference had the following objectives:

  1. Share best practices, lessons and challenges in parliamentary engagement with the MDGs
  2. Enhance parliamentary knowledge on the SDGs with particular emphasis on a governance and accountability architecture for the new framework as well as a defined role of parliaments in the implementation mechanism;
  3.  Review national implementation and adaptation strategies of the SDGs, assessing parliamentary roles, inputs and opportunities.
  4. Develop common strategies for effective parliamentary engagement in the domestication, mainstreaming and adaptation of the SDGs into national planning processes.
  5. Promote understanding on emerging Africa vision for socio-economic transformation, their relationship with the SDGs and parliamentary role in their achievement.
  6. Foster collaboration and partnership between parliamentarians, the UN System, non-state actors and international development partners in ensuring accountability to the SDGs especially as it relates to the needs and aspirations of Africa.

The conference was attended by over 120 parliamentarians from 25 across Africa and was preceded by the General Assembly of the African Network of Parliamentarians on the SDGs, a regional body of parliamentarians facilitated by the UN SDG Action Campaign and committed to advancing the SDGs in Africa through parliamentary mechanisms.